Sydney, Australia – A new research report on the energy efficiency of Australian homes has revealed that current minimum requirements for insulation under Australia’s building regulations are not the most cost effective. The research shows millions of dollars are set to be saved through higher standards of insulation.
Across all of the Australian capital cities, insulation levels higher than the current minimum required could save residents $312 million over 30 years; the benefits far outweighing the upfront cost. With a saving of around $100 million, Western Australian residents could benefit the most. Queensland fared the best, with their regulation being the closest to cost-optimal levels.
On average, ceilings required a 50% increase in insulation and walls up to 35%. Inadequate insulation for both heating and cooling will cost individual households anywhere up to $6,000 over time.
The research was carried out by Pitt&Sherry in partnership with the Australian Alliance for Energy Productivity (A2EP), Knauf Insulation and the Association of Wall and Ceiling Industries (AWCI). It analysed the current ‘deemed to satisfy’ levels against ‘cost-optimal’ levels in different climates and house-types.
Tony Westmore, General Manager, A2EP believes the analysis highlights an important issue, given heating and cooling makes up an average of a third of home energy bills.
“When it comes to insulation the majority of new buildings will only adhere to the minimum code requirements. This research highlights that in most states and house types this is not the most cost effective. Across the board, the vast majority of Australian homes would benefit from insulation levels above the current standard.
“In addition, the study found that retrofitting is also very cost-effective and pays for itself through savings on energy bills in less than 8 years in almost every case. This is significant because recent data has highlighted that around 28% (or around 2.8 million) of Australian homes still have no insulation. In comparison, two-thirds of Australian homes use some form of cooling.
“Cost is compelling, but it’s also important to consider the health and sustainability benefits of better insulated housing. Uncomfortably low indoor temperatures in winter have an adverse impact on health. Heating is expensive. Unnecessary air-conditioning in summer is expensive, contributes to costly peaks and draws on polluting power,” Mr Westmore said.
Topping up ceiling insulation in existing homes was shown to be the number one priority. An uninsulated home loses and gains more heat through the ceiling and roof than any other part of the house. About 22% of heat from the average uninsulated house is lost through the walls and up to 30% of heat is typically lost through the ceiling.
Stuart Dunbar, Managing Director, Knauf Insulation said: “It’s great to see solid evidence of just how cost effective insulation is for Australian homes. The benefits of insulation should last the life of the building with minimal maintenance, unlike heaters and air conditioners which need to be serviced and eventually replaced.”
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 Cost-optimal is when the savings from using less energy from installing more insulation equal or outweigh the additional cost of insulation.
 ABS 2011